Good coaches never stop planning or worrying — even in the off-season.
And that’s the way the summer has gone for Lady Longhorn volleyball coach Arnold Stonebrink who has been as busy the past few months as he is during the heat of the fall campaign.
His chores have been multidimensional — he’s restructured his coaching staff, taken players to a highly regarded positional camp, hosted a parks and recreation youth camp, entered teams in summer tournaments, chaperoned a fund-raising car wash, helped run concession stands and is now planning the upcoming annual alumni steak dinner and tournament.
As if that wasn’t enough fare on his plate, Stonebrink also spends what little free time he has mulling over next season’s prospects.
“There seems to be as many question marks as sure things,” said the coach. “We lost seven seniors last year, so we’ll be young and inexperienced.”
Despite the youth movement on varsity, Stonebrink is confident the Lady Horns will field a quality team. “I think the girls are capable, I don’t know how many victories we’ll manage, but we should be competitive.”
During Stonebrink’s tenure at the helm of the program, he’s built a reputation of being able to mold a cohesive unit out of players who might not be as experienced or as naturally talented as some other individuals in the East.
So, it’s a sure bet he’ll position varsity candidates in the slot where they can best contribute to the team effort.
With the onset of the season over a month away, he’s predicting Michelle Daniels will probably anchor the middle and Trinity England could take one of the outside or opposite hitter positions.
Cami Barnett is also a candidate to start at outside hitter.
The uncertainty on the team lies in the setting job that was held so capably the past three seasons by Cydney Figueroa.
“I don’t know what we’ll do with the setting job — it will fall to Desi Burris or Rylee Halenar, or both,” he said. “If Rylee doesn’t set, she will be the libero.”
The coach calls the always-hustling Halenar, “one of the funnest players to watch, she has endless energy.”
The coach also anticipates Kelsey Waugh or Katelyn Curtis will lock horns for a middle hitter slot and Reghan Flake and Burris could battle on for an opposite hitter position, depending on how the setting position unfolds.
The aspiring varsity players will have a unique opportunity to settle into their positions at the Excel Positional Camp set for July 24-25 in Glendale.
During the camp, the players are divided into groups — middle hitters, outside/opposite hitters, setters and liberos/back row players.
Which means, for an athlete to get the most out of the sessions, she and the coaches must decide on the position to play that season.
“The girls receive intensive training geared to their position,” Stonebrink said.
For at least two players that decision could be tough. For example, last year Flake played the back row, but this season may move to opposite hitter. Or, she could still see some time in the back row.
Another in a limbo is Halenar, a standout libero, but also a fine setter.
“We’ll have to decide where to put her,” Stonebrink said.
The coach expects to send to camp at least nine players including Daniels, Flake, Burris and England.
Former BYU women’s coach Karen Lamb, who is also the aunt of sophomore Katelyn Curtis, runs the camp.
Stonebrink says Excel is, “the only camp we’ve gone to every single year I’ve been here — the players love the camp.
Alumni vs. varsity
The first chance fans will have to see the new crop of players in action will be the Aug. 1 alumni tournament. Action tips off at 6:30 p.m. in Wilson Dome with Lady Horn varsity hopefuls playing games against past PHS court stars.
“The tournament is open to anyone who played varsity volleyball for Payson,” Stonebrink said. “It should be a lot of fun and nostalgic.”
Last year, the first season the tournament was held, the varsity defeated a spirited Class of 2005 in the championship final.
Stonebrink anticipates six teams will enter this year’s fray.
The match will be preceded at 4:30 p.m. by a benefit dinner in the dome. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for children. The menu includes steak, beans, potato, salad and drink. Tickets are available at the door or from any volleyball player or coach.
Earlier this summer, team hopefuls played in a one-day tournament in Safford where they tied for fifth place.
On June 26 and 27, the team battled in the Blue Ridge Summer Invitational.
In pool play, Payson was 6-4 and relegated to the consolation bracket where the team advanced to the championship before falling to Round Valley.
Payson also entered a B team that was 2-8 in pool play and 2-2 in the consolation bracket.
In pool action, the team suffered through enough tough luck to last a season, losing three matches by one point. Overall, the B team was seventh in the final standings.
When varsity players were not competing, they were helping Stonebrink and town recreation leader Joe Harris host a junior volleyball camp.
On June 29, 30 and July 1, the largest contingent in the history of the junior camp, 66 players, gathered in old PHS gym to hone their court skills.
The previous high for the camp was 15.
“In spite of the large numbers, the camp went off fine and a number of parents and players commented on how they liked it,” Stonebrink said. “I had a lot of great help from 10 players in my program.”
Hillari Hardt, Stonebrink’s varsity assistant has resigned and will be replaced by former Lady Longhorn star Jadyn Walden. Last season, Walden coached the freshmen.
Shelli Creighton will take over the freshman coaching position and her husband Trevor will coach the junior varsity. Both Creightons also coach the Rim Club youth team.
The 2009 season tips off in earnest Aug. 25 in Holbrook.